Harford executive cleared in Perryman land transfer

September 27, 2002|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Maryland's top prosecutor has found no criminal wrongdoing by Harford's county executive and county attorney in a land transaction early this year that involved a developer with political ties to the administration.

County Executive James M. Harkins released a letter yesterday written by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli analyzing the county's decision to relinquish its claim to 3.12 acres of land and water on the Bush River, allowing Gablers Shore Marina LLC to take title.

The county said it had no right to the property because it was acquired in error as part of a conservation package put together in the 1990s.

"There is no question that a mistake was made in the deed due to a faulty or lack of a proper survey," Montanarelli wrote. "We find no misconduct in the decision to forsake any claim to the property."

Harkins pointed to this passage in the four-page letter several times yesterday, saying that he and his staff had been left to clean up the "shoddy" work of former Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann's administration in acquiring the land, which is on the Perryman peninsula.

The matter, he said, "is not a question of whose land it was. It's a question of where the property line was."

The Rehrmann administration bought the acreage from the Harford Land Trust to preserve a lake, tidal inlet, wetlands and woodlands called the Forest Greens Lake Preserve.

Harkins and Deputy County Attorney Robert McCord, who handled the transaction, said the land was received in error.

The survey of the 3.12 acres, used in the 1990s land transfer between the land trust and the county, was dated and did not show a marina that had operated on the site since the late 1930s, McCord said. The business precludes any public right to the property, the county said.

The error was discovered late last year when Gablers Shore LLC was in the process of buying about 15 acres that includes the old Bush River Boat Works, the former Gabler's crab house and adjoining lots where houses and vacation trailers remain. The site will require extensive cleanup of aged septic systems. .

The group has submitted plans to the county for a 75-slip marina, boat shop and restaurant on part of the property.

Gablers Shore LLC's investors are Robert Hockaday, an Abingdon antiques dealer; Dr. Richard Streett, a Churchville veterinarian; Robert Freeze, a Timonium real estate agent; and Robert Geis, a Lutherville lawyer. Geis has given $2,100 to Harkins' election campaign.

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